I Am Malala by Malala Yousafzai with Christina Lamb

17851885Nonfiction — print. Little, Brown and Company, 2013. 327 pgs. Library copy.

When the Taliban took control of the Swat Valley in Pakistan, Malala Yousafzai continued to insist on exercising her right to an education and refused to allow the Taliban to dictate her actions as a young, Muslim woman. Speaking out against the Taliban anonymously — although, most in the Swat Valley knew it was her — on a blog for the BBC, Yousafzai received numerous death threats from the Taliban and her parents were cautioned to silence their daughter before the Taliban retaliated.

On Tuesday, October 9, 2012, when she was fifteen, Malala was shot in the head at point-blank range while riding the bus home from school, and few expected her to survive. Instead, Malala recovered and her voice was amplified until, at sixteen, she became a global advocate for a woman’s right to education and the youngest nominee ever for the Nobel Peace Prize.

Malala is a remarkable young woman who deserves praise for her peaceful protest in the face of violent opposition. That said, this book fails to do justice to this young woman’s story due to its poor narrative that jumbles together Pakistani history and politics and Malala’s personal experience. This may result from the book having two authors with Malala providing the vivid personal stories and Lamb attempting to contextualize them with a watered down version of Pakistani history. Much of Malala’s distinct voice is lost, and the narrative is so disjointed that it jumps from criticizing the Taliban to condemning the Pakistani government, particularly the Army, with little respect to the timeline of Malala’s life.

Although I’m familiar with Malala’s story, I was surprised to learn she was the anonymous blogger for the BBC about life under the Taliban. I’ve read snippets from that blog over the years and discussed them during undergraduate courses on the Middle East and religious extremism so I’m curious as to why these posts were not printed either in extracts or in full in this book. Possibly because they were not written or edited by Lamb? They certainly managed to preserve her voice more than this book did.

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